JIN-164 -- The Ever-Evolving Convenience Store

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the week's business and technology news

Issue No. 164
Wednesday, January 16, 2002


++ Viewpoint: The Ever-Evolving Convenience Store
++ Noteworthy News
- UFJ Megabank Opens
- EBay May Sell Japan Site
- Survey: Broadband's Strongest Point is 24-Hour Access, Not Speed
++ Events

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++ VIEWPOINT: The Ever-Evolving Convenience Store

When 7-Eleven opened its first convenience stores in the US in 1974,
they were places to buy a pack of smokes and a huge cup of
foul-tasting coffee while you filled up your car with gas. For the
past decade or so, Japan has played with that convenience store
model, creating the *konbini,* a really convenient convenience store
that is wired for the digital generation. People are allowed to stand and
read magazines at the rack, ATMs let customers do their
banking 24 hours a day, Internet terminals take ticket reservations,
and now, if Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) and am/pm Japan have
their way, the konbini will be a place to go for advice on
everything from insurance to getting a patent on your latest
invention idea.

This idea of the konbini as an accessible "concierge" (their word)
guiding you through the ins and outs of a changing society is on
display in one store in the heart of Bit Valley. The store (at
Jinnan 1-12-10, Shibuya-ku near the Shibuya immigration office) has
a Tepco office on one side, a typical am/pm convenience store on the
other, and a section in the middle with free broadband Internet
connections and booths with laptops for rent. Along the side
are experts -- who look a little young, but hey, it's a convenience
store, not a law firm -- ready to answer your questions on just
about anything. This is the only Tepco de am/pm store in existence
now, and both Tepco and am/pm are seeing how it works out between
now and September. They will then decide if this is a winning
concept (let's hope they come up with a new name for starters).

Here's what you can find at Tepco de am/pm:

- Legal advice (5,000 yen per 30 minutes)
- Advice on patents and registration processes (5,000 yen per 30
- Advice on lighting up your house for the holiday season (3,000 per
30 minutes)
- Advice on renovating your home (no price listed)
- Advice on insurance (5,000 yen flat rate)
- Health and beauty tips for women (2,000 yen)
- Fortunetelling (2,000 yen)
- Asset management advice (5,000 yen)
- A travel agency

Will we be getting our legal and financial advice from convenience
stores in the future? It may depend on the success of the lone Tepco
de am/pm store.

-- Bruce Rutledge

From am/pm Japan:

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** UFJ Megabank Opens

Extract: Signs for Sanwa and Tokai banks were changed over the
weekend to UFJ Bank as the megabank -- the country's fourth largest
-- opened for business. The merged entity will try to write off as
much as 2 trillion yen in bad loans in the year through March.

UFJ Bank is the commercial arm of UFJ Group, created in April when
Sanwa, Tokai and Toyo Trust and Banking merged.

UFJ's first challenge is to shore up the Daiei supermarket chain,
which owes the bank 800 billion yen, according to the British
Broadcasting Corp.

Commentary: This is the next to last step in the giant reshaping of
Japan's banking industry that started a couple of years ago. Next,
the Mizuho Group -- combining Dai Ichi Kangyo Bank, Fuji Bank and the
Industrial Bank of Japan -- will open its megabank this April.

From the BBC:


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** EBay May Sell Japan Site

Extract: An eBay spokesman told Bloomberg News that its Japan site
has not generated enough business, and the company is considering
selling its Japan arm or entering into a joint venture. EBay is the
No. 1 auction site in 16 of the 17 markets it operates in, company
spokesman Chris Donlay said. Japan is the only market where eBay
doesn't lead. EBay became full owner of its Japan operations last

Commentary: The 'For Sale' sign has been posted. Any takers? EBay is
fourth in the Japan online auction business, trailing market leader
Yahoo. Perhaps Yahoo will gobble up its rival.

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** Survey: Broadband's Strongest Point is 24-Hour Access, Not Speed

Extract: In a recent survey by the Digital Content Association of
Japan, 85.7 percent of Japan's Internet users say they have started
or will start broadband services because of 24-hour connections to
the Internet. The survey, which allowed for multiple answers, found
that 67.7 percent of the respondents said the speed of access was
key, and 60.8 percent pointed to lower costs as a reason for
switching to broadband.

But when users were asked about downloading specific content, their
enthusiasm seemed to wane. Interested in Internet broadcasting
services? Just 18.3 percent said yes. Network games got a 12.6
percent response, and Internet telephone services garnered 9.4
percent. As for buying digital content, 23 percent of broadband users
said they had purchased software online, 17.4 percent had bought
music, and 11.4 percent had bought images. The figures were all
slightly lower for narrowband users.

A total of about 3,000 people age 20 or older replied to the online

From Asia Biztech:

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Written by Bruce Rutledge (bruce@japaninc.com) and Sumie Kawakami

Edited by J Mark Lytle (mark@japaninc.com)

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